Some people go their entire lives in search of their passion. Others know what they’re destined to do in life from the start.
Since childhood, Juan Perez dreamt about being an electrical engineer. His humble beginnings in Mexico set the foundation for his perseverance, work ethic and philanthropic mindset. Those attributes would eventually lead him to become a Transmission Operations Electrical Engineer at APS and join Valley of the Sun United Way’s Loaned Executive Program.
Juan first came to the United States 15 years ago as an international student pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering. That dream took a detour when he failed the English test to get into the program.
Devastated but not deterred, Juan turned his failure into focus. He spent the next year in ESL (English as a second language) classes at Arizona Western College in Yuma. “It took me literally a year to turn that English switch on,” said Juan. “It was just a magical experience because from that day on, I started thinking in English and that changed things.”
Those English lessons paid off. In 2010, Juan graduated with a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. His career path led him to become a high school math and physics teacher, an associate college professor of electricity and solar, and a superintendent at a construction company. His impressive resume eventually led him to Arizona Public Service (APS), where he was recruited almost six years ago.
Juan takes pride in his work at APS. “My mathematical equations represent the health and safety of the people that depend on my calculations,” he said. “There are some days that I just cannot sleep because I’m so excited to be at work the next day and do my job.”
While Juan manages a busy work schedule, his commitment to giving back to the community inspired him to become a loaned executive last year. His passion to pay it forward to those less fortunate than him is what motivated Juan to try something new and temporarily join the team at Valley of the Sun United Way.
“I believe in education. I believe in creating opportunities for those communities trapped in the cycle of poverty,” he said. “In my point of view, that’s the best way to do it, education and creating those opportunities.”
The Loaned Executive Program provides companies the opportunity to offer employees a unique learning experience. Every year, six loaned executives join the team at United Way for 16 weeks. During that time, each individual is paired with a staff member to support Employee Campaign Managers, company leaders running each company’s workplace campaign during the organization’s peak fundraising season.
When Juan joined the Loaned Executive Program in August 2020, he took a giant leap out of his comfort zone. He joined Corporate Relations Manager Fara Walling and quickly got to work. Together, they created fundraising goals, designed campaign strategies, created and delivered a variety of presentations for corporate partners, and supported corporate philanthropy in the Valley’s top companies.
Fara said she is grateful that she and Juan were paired as a team. “From our first conversation to our last conversation in November, I saw such a transformation, a blossoming,” she said. “Having loaned executives come in, taking time away from their own jobs to support us and support our work, it’s absolutely incredible.”
Juan said one of his biggest takeaways was his improved communication skills. “Engineers focus on the equation but forget about the human part of the equation,” said Juan. Today, he’s more comfortable approaching people, a skill he believes benefits him, his team, and the company he loves working for, APS.
The Loaned Executive Program was an eye-opening experience for Juan. Not only did he learn about the most challenging issues impacting our community, but he also discovered the philanthropic hearts at APS. After years with the company, he had not recognized the critical role the company plays in creating positive change in our communities; now his appreciation and respect for APS has risen.
For community leaders looking to get involved in the Loaned Executive Program, Juan has one word: growth. As he advocates for the program to his co-workers at APS, he recalls his experience as an opportunity to build and develop a growth mindset while increasing your impact in the community.
As a loaned executive alumni, Juan remains focused on giving back to the community. He became co-chair of the APS campaign and hopes to chair the campaign next year. One of Juan’s long-term goals is to join nonprofit boards. He hopes to lead organizations to make a lasting impact in the lives of our neighbors in need.
Community champions like Juan are the backbone of Valley of the Sun United Way. Opportunities like the Loaned Executive Program would not be possible without the continued support of corporate partners like APS. Thanks to their generosity, community leaders like Juan can expand their philanthropic efforts while making a lasting impact on their community and company.
We are currently recruiting 2021 Loaned Executives. To learn more about Valley of the Sun United Way’s Loaded Executive program and how your company can make a difference, click here.